A faithful Jehovah’s Witness is forced to shun her own sister because of a religious transgression. As the separation draws out, she starts to question the meaning of God’s love.
Written and directed by a former Jehovah’s Witness in Daniel Kokotajlo, ‘Apostasy’ is an engrossing insight into the inner workings of the religion through the eyes of a family of devout Witnesses. The family are made up of Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) and her two daughters, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) and Alex (Molly Wright), all of whom are regular attendees at the Kingdom Hall. When Luisa goes off to college and gets pregnant, the pressure from her family and church to fit in with their ideals becomes too much to bear and the suffocating effects of the religion and its disfellowshipping practice hit home hard.
The performances are uniformly terrific from the central trio and the film is structured in a way where the focus switches between Ivanna, Luisa and Alex at different points, providing alternative viewpoints towards the religion that has encompassed much of their life. Finneran in particular is terrific as she portrays a woman caught between her family and her faith, caught between what she knows deep down is right and what she’s always known. Kokotajlo makes this conflict agonising to watch and we can empathise with the decision Ivanna is faced with, even as it’s always clear where the true villainy lies. ‘Apostasy’ is a damning critique of organised religion, but specifically organised religion that uses such awful techniques as disfellowshipping to punish those who don’t follow the church’s teachings to the letter.
Coming from a former Witness in Kokotajlo we can expect ‘Apostasy’ to be an accurate, if slightly biased view of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their teachings and I thought it was a terrific watch with strong performances across the board. The power of the film comes less from the critique of the church’s practices and more from the quiet way the characters submit to the church and allow it to control their lives and it’s ultimately a sad film with no uplifting coda to be found.
Directed By: Daniel Kokotajlo
Starring: Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson, Molly Wright and Robert Emms